Reapproaching the Way I Write

I’ve recently (as in the past week) be inspired or determined to really put the head down and make some progress with my writing. There are three reasons for this.

1. Encouragement: I’ve never been short on encouragement from the right people, but usually it comes after going looking for it. There have been two people who have turned on my lately and told me to get the thumb out.

One of these people was my old friend/mentor, Duane Vorhese, who has been on to me a lot lately about getting a completed manuscript together. He obviously is sure of the necessity of constantly reminding the likes of me to actually sit down and focus on what’s important, and for me, that’s getting a book published before I leave Korea in a few years.

The other person who has been giving me a hard time is, well who else but the person whose job it is to give me a hard time? Yes, it’s Herself, most high and holy spouse of mine. She was reading a book by Haruki Murakami, where there is a journalist character who describes his work as clearing snow while it is still snowing. Clearing snow is essentially a job that has to be done, it doesn’t really benefit anyone, and no one will give any recognition to as the job will go on and on, and this rewardless task is what he compares writing too. Rewardless.

I’ve kind of being doing this a little lately by writing for a couple of magazines here in Seoul, but since this little chat we had, and also because one of the magazines didn’t like an article I liked where I put in a bit of creative effort, I’m taking a break from this side of writing, at least for a few months while I reassess my role and what I’m trying to do. I like it enough to not stop doing it, and anyway it’s important that I focus on my real writing.

2. It’s About Time: I’ve been back in Korea with ample time to focus on my writing, and so far I’ve just kind of wandered round in circles trying to concentrate on things that will get me nowhere. This blog, is one of those things, as are the magazine articles if I don’t change my approach to them. I’ve been writing, mostly poems and also other bits and pieces with differing levels of frequency, but also I think with a notable sense of improvement.

I looked through an old notebook of mine from Korea and I thought at first that the quality was quite high. Then I read it again and was pretty sure that I had made a noticeable improvement. The number of quality poems in the notebook was certainly limited, but what was more important was the number of poems that I had clearly spent a lot of time working on, and as far as I could work out, I had yet to complete them. They could be quite good poems too. Having found all these poems left behind, I realised that I have so many other poems that I consider finished, and they have never seen any publicity other than the open mics in Itaewon.

So this weekend, so far, I’ve emailed around fifteen old and relatively new poems to magazines and chap-book publishers that do regular publications. Expect me to rant and rave or stomp and storm about this some time after Christmas. This has allowed me grant myself renewed emphasis and direction, at least that’s the way I see it.

3. Practice: This isn’t about perfect practice, or practice with direction, it’s about writing regardless of the reason. I found an author’s page on the Electronic Poetry Center’s website for a woman called Bernadette Mayer,whom, I’ll be honest, I’ve never heard of before. However, Charles Bernstein recommended her, so I went over to her authors page on the Electronic Poetry Center where she has listed a number of great activities that you can spend either five minutes on or the whole afternoon. She’s also listed possible journal entries, that are of course interpretable towards whatever suits, or you can even use them as topics for poems (as I tried to do with my writing class the other day – I will see the results tomorrow).

These exercises are ideal ways of exploring and using language to reveal new ways to utilise and expand on my own ways of expressing myself poetically, and also as a writer in general. Judging by my own success at tackling these tasks I can get an idea of how well equipped I am. So far, the results have been limited.

Over the years I’ve heard it said on so many occasions that you should read plenty of poems, and also that you should write plenty of poems too. An old friend of said that for every poem you write you should have at least ten (or it may have been a much bigger or much smaller number) that you never want to see again (or maybe that might be built towards something greater later). But, these exercises offer a more advanced, less subjective, more exploratory way of discovering and understanding a writers ability, and they offer a way to explore things I’d never try ordinarily.

Or at least, I hope that’s the case with me.

As usual, with all these revelations,  I’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

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